The charade continues.
SNP Group ‘Leader’, Councillor Sandy Taylor, has emailed his colleagues with a notification, but little detail, of the SNP’s attendance at two meetings this week:
- the Council-wide Short Life Working Group on Political Management Arrangements on 12th August;
- and the meeting he led SNP ‘negotiators’ into yesterday, 13th August, with the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance.
Firstly, it is uncomfortable to note that, in respect of the SNP Group meeting held last week at which the group voted 6-1 to join the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance led by Councillor Duncan Macintyre, members of the SNP Group were:
- deliberately misinformed by Councillor Taylor as to the matter of this meeting – told that there was nothing beyond the usual on the agenda;
- not informed of the meeting by Councillor Taylor.
Quite how this conduct of member-to-member relations can be justified to the satisfaction of Audit Scotland, due to report on this very issue in relation to Argyll and Bute Council in September – would be interesting to hear.
A tale of two meetings
Yesterday evening, Councillor Taylor, communicating to the entire group, invited his colleagues to attend a meeting of the SNP Group in Oban on Tuesday 20th August at 3pm to hear more of what was discussed at the meeting with Argyll and Bute for Change earlier yesterday; and come to an agreement on it.
He provided his colleagues with an outline sketch of what was discussed yesterday, 13th August, between the representatives of the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance [Councillors Duncan Macintyre, Dick Walsh, Donald Kelly and Iain Angus Macdonald] and the SNP Group [Councillors Sandy Taylor, John Semple, Anne Horn and Isobel Strong].
According to Councillor Taylor’s note: ‘The SNP team met with representatives of Argyll and Bute for Change this afternoon, when both parties explored the potential to work together in the future.
‘Amongst the issues of concern raised by the team were
i. The way forward with regard to the PMAs [Ed: Political Management Arrangements]
iv. How we would work together
v. Constraints – policy issues
vi. Communication, and
‘The team made a commitment to provide a list of questions which need to be considered by both Groups.
The team undertook to provide feedback to the whole SNP group, and to seek approval for continuing dialogue.’
‘Timing’ is interesting.
One has to conclude that the need to meet on Tuesday 20th August, two days before the August Council meeting on Thursday 22nd August, relates to ‘Timing’.
Our sense seems well placed that the Council meeting on Thursday next is likely to end with the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance leading the political management of the council, with Former Council Leader, Councillor Dick Walsh, back in the driving seat.
The leading group within the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance is the Alliance of Independent Councillors, led by Councillor Dick Walsh, voted out of power at the 2012 Scottish Local Authority elections.
Concerns on political propriety
We note that Councillor Isobel Strong was one of the SNP group negotiators who attended today’s meeting with Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance.
It is disturbing that the Provost of Argyll and Bute has seen fit to attend what was a deeply partisan meeting, as a negotiator for her party with another group.
Former Provost, Councillor William Petrie, did not engage in this sort of political activity.
It is particularly disturbing that the Provost, by her participation, has effectively endorsed an essentially divisive discussion sequence which excludes a substantial group of councillors – the Argyll, Lomond and the Isles Group. This group contains four Liberal Democrats, three Conservatives and three Independents.
Their exclusion from discussion on what are clearly, in any sense of the term, ‘political management arrangements’ therefore excludes them from participation in the planned governance of Argyll and Bute. Several of these councillors are also the most experienced and the most able in the chamber.
This is not what the voting public and Audit Scotland were given to expect at the last full council meeting at the end of June, where all groups appeared to be signing up to a chamber-wide collaborative government.
The Short Life Working Group on Political Management Arrangements was then tasked by council to come up with recommendations on how this might be achieved.
This all looks rather pointless now, subverted by extracurricular deals.
Councillor Taylor’s note on yesterday’s Short Life Working Group meeting
The note from the SNP Group ‘Leader’ to his colleagues on this meeting reports:
‘(Representatives: Roddy McCuish, John Semple, Anne Horn and Gordon Blair)
‘Yesterday’s meeting proved very fruitful.
‘Members identified and agreed the following:
i. [Ed: This was left blank.]
ii. Too much coming to the full council to allow for effective and informed political scrutiny.
iii. Too little local accountability.
iv. Too much going to and from the centre.
v. Political instability.
vi. Too few members involved in establishing the political and strategic direction of the council
‘Members agreed that our aims should be:
vii. Political stability
viii. Increased accountability
ix. Increased responsiveness to local needs
x. Increased involvement of all elected members
‘At the conclusion of the meeting, the SLWG agreed that:
1. The current governance structure is not working effectively.
2. Below Council level there should be an additional structure (committees/cabinet/other model).
3. PPSL, Audit and Performance Review Committees should be retained.
4. Area Committees should be strengthened in remit and purpose.
5. The structure of reports and papers to be reviewed.
The SLWG will hold another meeting soon after the next council meeting and is conscious that its deliberations will need to take into account the report from Audit Scotland once it is made available to all members in September or early October.’
It does not seem to occur to Councillor Taylor that the Audit Scotland Commissioners should be appraised of the developments in which he and his SNP co-negotiators are engaged with Argyll and Bute for Change; and that they might need to take these into account in their upcoming report.
It will be of further interest to residents of Argyll’s five major towns that, as ‘Leader’ of the SNP group, Councillor Taylor, at the Short Life Working Group meeting, took his lead from the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance presentation.
He too has omitted any consideration of where the management of the expensive and failing CHORD programme for the regeneration of these towns should fit in to ‘PMA’s – Political Management Arrangements.
It is also a measure of Councilor Taylor’s acuity that he has pronounced the session to have been ‘fruitful’ in being led by a presentation from the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance which included an idiocy touted for support yesterday evening in an email to all colleagues from Councillor Michael Breslin – an SNP resignee, now an Independent.
Councillor Breslin says:
‘Dear all, please find attached our proposals on new political management arrangements as discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the short life working group. While we have outlined a number of possible models, we suggest that what we have called model 5, a hybrid model, might work best.’
When you look at the detail Councillor Breslin attached, it is a Powerpoint version of the proposal submitted in advance by the Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance to the Short Life Working Group for yesterday’s meeting.
This is the description in this text of the ‘hybrid model’ Councillor Breslin recommends:
‘Some models for discussion
- A cabinet structure
- A committee structure
- A mix of 1 and 2
- A devolved model, ie to area level
- A mix of 3 and 4
‘Which of these, if any, best meets our aims? ‘
Right. Think about this daffy.
- Option 3 is for a marriage if Options 1 and 2
- Option 4 is a new option
- Option 5 is for a marriage of Options 3 and 4.
So the ‘hybrid model’ – Option 5 - is simply an ‘All of the above’ option.
This fails utterly to discriminate between the options on the basis of any analytic procedure. It is no more than a ‘throw up the hands and chuck ‘em all in’ conclusion designed to buy support from anyone with any preference of any kind. All are guaranteed to be there.
This is the sort of ‘governance’ the SNP Group cannot wait to support to get themselves out of any real responsibility in Argyll and Bute.
A sad day.